Friday, March 30, 2007

And This Little Piggy Ran WeeWeeWee all the Way Home

Yes that's right I am home; back in Canada. Some of you might still be asking “what happened?” A few weeks ago I mentioned I wasn’t sure where I would be spending this next semester. I had applied for a job in a small town twelve hours from where I have been living. We waited for several weeks and in the end were informed the school was not able to obtain the proper work visa’s for us. By the time they told us, however, the school semester had already started and I was to late to apply to study for another semester. So I decide to head home for a little while. It has been 2 ½ years since I was last here.

One of the bonuses of being home is my freedom to once again eat pork. The Uyghur people are Muslims. Most of them may never have read the Koran, nor do they always pray five times a day, but every Uyghur knows that eating pork is wrong. So wrong they will not even say the word, they call it ‘the big meat’. So for the sake of my friendships I have chosen to give up any pig product while I am in Central Asia. Whenever one of my Uyghur friends asks if I have ever eaten or tried it I answer “yes. in my culture we eat it quite often. We believe that it is not what you put into the body that makes a person clean but what comes out of it.”. I do tell them that all of the dishes in my house are ‘clean’, never having touched pork, nor do I ever go into restaurants that serve it. I promise them I will not eat it while living among them because I value their friendship and respect the culture

But that doesn’t stop me from partaking all I want when I am home. Since returning a week ago I have had bacon, pork chops and Ham. This little piggy really has come home.

This picture was sent to me by one of my classmates over a year ago. He had left Central Asia and stoped in to visit my parents. My mom made a great home cooked dinner with lots of ham, and my classmate took this picture to to rub it in.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Taste of Home – Or Atleast as Close as You can Get

Since I am still hoping to move south in the next week and a half or so, I am trying to soak up all the joys and luxuries of the big city. Once I move to Aquk everyday will be laghman and pollo with hardly any variety in the daily menu. But while I am still in the city there are choices.

There is KFC, there is Pizza Hut(except it is not hala) and there are three foreign restaurants run by other foreigners. Ones like the Vine- which has a Caribbean feel, The Rendezvous – which has borsch on the menu and Texas CafĂ© – I guess they are not really tastes of home, but they’re about as close as you can get. I can take my computer down there, get on their wireless connection, catch up on emails, and spend a couple of hours drinking real coffee. So during the meals that I am not out with friends saying goodbye I am trading in my noodles for pizza and hamburgers, I better enjoy it while I can… all good things must come to an end.

Relaxing at The Vine with a Friend

The Front of the Texas Cafe

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Bigger the Butter the Better

Buying real butter for cooking is kind of hard our here, and when you do find it at the couple of participating stores, the price will nearly knock your socks off. Other foreigners in town have found that you can buy it in bulk. One family will buy the block and then cut it up and sell it to the rest of us in usable amounts. The other night I was on hand when the bulk load of butter was being cut up and sold. The original block was 50kg, and about 2 cubic feet in size. You can just imagine the type of knife needed to cut that baby. It was huge, it was the bigger butter.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

It Sounds Like a War Zone Out There

Yesterday was considered the last day of the Lunar New Year. Chinese New Year is celebrated all over Asia, and the 18th day marks the finale. On this night everyone lets off firecrackers. Trust me when I say that July 4th has nothing on this party. Every family lets off fireworks. I didn’t even know they made so many different kinds until I moved out here. Some are long strips that people hang on poles from their windows, others are cases of sparking type fluid, some can be shot into the sky like a gun. I always thought fireworks were meant to be beautiful, but last night I learned some are just loud and bright.

We were walking to my friends house after dinner, and had to watch our step, sparks were falling from the sky, firecrackers were popping up from the sidewalk, some were bouncing off windows, cars had to drive slowly so that they didn’t get set on fire. It was a crazy night, but the celebration is now over, and the ground is covered with red paper from the light display.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hands in My Pocket, Hands in My Pocket!

If you read the Lonely Planet guide to this city you will be warned about the number of thefts in the downtown area. All of the travel books suggest locking your backpack, carrying it in front of you, and keeping an eye on it in case someone tries to slash it. While I have never gone to these sorts of measures the truth is that you do have to watch your bag closely. One of my friends has had two cell phones and three wallets nabbed from her, someone else had their palm pilot taken. Thankfully I have only lost one cell phone, but there have been many other times I have felt a hand at my side.

It is most important to be careful on busy street corners or crowded buses, anywhere someone might accidentally bump up against you. Whenever I feel someone going after my bag, I slap his hand as hard as I can and yell in the local language, “this is not okay”. The thief does not want to be noticed, so he will quickly fall back into the crowd and try someone else’s pocket. If you are on the bus you may witness someone stealing from another passenger, if you confront the thief he might threaten you, the best way to intervene in the situation is to step on the foot of the person who is being stolen from, this way they will move and hopefully the thief will no longer be able to reach their pocket.

As foreigners we often get together and share our pickpocket stories. My friend told me the best one last week. She was on the street shopping when she felt the light brush of a hand against her side, she quickly moved, and looked down at her purse. The zipper had been opened a couple of inches. She quickly started checking the contents of her bag to make sure nothing had been taken. While searching through her purse she came across a pair of long handled tweezers that did not belong to her. When she pulled them out to examine them better a man tapped her on the shoulder. He then asked in Uyghur if he could “have those back”. My friend was so shocked that the man had the nerve to ask, and that she was actually able to understand him, that she gave the tweezers back without thinking. But if you give the thief his tool back he’ll live to pickpocket another day.

This is where I got my cell phone stolen, it may look like a peaceful part of town, but in turth it's a crime scene waitng to happen.